Playstyles and Collaborating with Other Business Owners

I enjoy collaboration. Ever since I started my first business in 1998, I’ve had partners in some capacity on various projects. And, a lot of those partnerships have dissolved due to differences or simply indifference. I’ve been in several BNI groups and, every year, on the leadership team. As a director for BNI and an ambassador in other groups, I observe how business owners interact when working together.

The team dynamic when it comes to groups of business owners is complex. Some members of the group will be frustrated that other members don’t seem interested in contributing to the team. Or, they contribute for a while and then disappear. Some members are frustrated that they are always being asked to be on the team and they just aren’t interested.

When I studied the Mindsonar program and NLP metaprofiles, I learned that it’s not that people don’t like each other or have different priorities. 

They simply have different playstyles.

In the NLP metaprofiles system, we measure a person’s mindset around playstyle. It’s called playstyle because it all comes from when we played as children. How we engage with others as adults are still rooted in the ways we played as children.

In this NLP metaprogram, there are three styles of play identified.

Consider yourself at work for a moment.

If I were to ask you “when are you in your element?”, would you answer:

  1. I like to work closely with other people.
  2. I like others to be nearby and I want my own responsibility.
  3. I like to work alone and I tend to not communicate with anyone else about what I’m planning.

If you chose:

#1 – Together

You are in your element when you are “together”. You like a common goal. Chances are, you like putting together programs that are more democratic. You might be the expert, and everyone’s contribution is equally important.

The advantage for you is that you will tend to care about how everyone is doing on the team and pull forward those who are falling behind.

Frustration: Others have their own priorities. They want to be involved, and they don’t respond well to the word “team.”
Solution: Ask yourself, “Am I OK with doing the work separately with a shared goal?”

Frustration: You must get work done entirely alone.
Solution: Ask yourself, “How can I make myself comfortable working alone?”

#2 – Proximity

You are in your element when you are in “proximity” to others. 

For solo business owners, that means you may find it difficult to work entirely alone and you do just fine when there are other people around working on their own tasks or projects. 

In a shared project, you’ll cover your own territory and be solely responsible for it. As a solo business owner, you might enjoy working at a coffee shop or shared workspace where others are around, and in their own space.

This is a good mindset for a solo business owner, team leader, or another type of manager. The frustration comes when responsibility must be shared (having someone else be co-accountable for the same tasks), and working with “Together” (#1 above) people who want you to be more team-oriented.

Frustration: In a group environment, some people want you to be on a team and share responsibility.
Solution: “What can I do together with my team-mates?”

#3 – Solo

You are in your element when you are working entirely alone. You are solely responsible for your work and you may prefer to do everything yourself.

Frustration: You want to be in a group and others are trying to pull you into their “team” or get you to work on projects.
Solution: Ask yourself “What are the benefits to me of working directly with these people?” If you don’t see a benefit, let them know that you work best entirely on your own.

Frustration: You want to collaborate with another person and they are pulling away because you make a lot of decisions without them.
Solution: “Have I talked to my colleague about this decision?”

The Platinum Rule and Collaboration

Finally, when it comes to collaboration, it is well worth finding out the thinking style of everyone involved and treating those people as they want to be treated, the Platinum Rule.

If the differences are too great, where you are high together and they are high solo, for instance, you may go your separate ways with understanding, rather than anger and recrimination, or find a way to play together that works for both of you.

Thinking patterns are contextual, so how you engage with others at work may be different from how you do so in other situations such as with family, children, playing on actual teams, etc. 

When you know your thinking patterns, you can use NLP techniques to shift your patterns to get the results that you want.

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